Statement from Environmental Defence’s Executive Director, Tim Gray on Ontario’s proposed changes to the Growth Plan

Toronto, Ont., – This morning, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing posted proposed changes to the Growth Plan for public comment. These changes were proposed under the guise of helping to increase housing supply in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), by loosening the regulations in place that encourage building within our existing town and cities, and instead favouring sprawl.

Given that government data shows that there is more than enough land designated for development within existing cities and towns to accommodate the expected population growth until 2041, we see this move as another example of the Ontario government bowing to the pressure of sprawl developers. These changes, combined with those proposed in Bill 66, mark an end to provincial rules that support smartly planned, transit friendly communities, and the protection of farmland, natural heritage areas, and clean water.

Key Changes to the Growth Plan

  1. Sprawl driven planning. The proposed Growth Plan changes will weaken provincial Land Needs Assessment rules and allow urban boundary expansion without strong evidence of need
  2. Weakened density targets. Requirements for using land efficiently will be weakened to allow more low density sprawl
  3. Urban boundaries will be allowed to expand onto farmland at the behest of developers instead of only during periodic Municipal Planning Reviews
  4. Employment lands will be allowed to be converted to residential and other uses. This change underscores the fact that there are currently, in place, employment lands in excess of demand. This contradicts the government’s assertions in Bill 66 that more employment land is needed
  5. Massive farmland grab. The province will allow precious farmland to be converted to employment lands, despite the absence of demonstrated need
  6. No new affordable housing. There are no changes to the Growth Plan that specifically mandate the creation of affordable housing
  7. Climate Change. Removes mention of it as an issue to be addressed in municipal plans
  8. Transit station density. Increased density will be allowed within 800 metres of existing and future transit stations. The current zone is 500 metres so this will increase the area where greater density can be developed. This may be beneficial in some areas.

Overall, the proposed changes fail to address the GGH’s affordable housing problem and favour costly low density sprawl. What the region needs are more housing options for renters and owners, within our cities, close to where people want to live, work and play. Not sprawling subdivisions on farmland, forests and the source of our drinking water.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca) Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence; 416-885-7847; skohls@environmentaldefence.ca